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Friday 20th July 2012 ko 7.45pm

Pre-Season Friendly

DIDCOT TOWN 1 (Vincente 84)

OXFORD UNITED 1 (Smalley 78)

Att 593

Entry £9

Programme £2

To be honest, on Friday afternoon I was fully intending to give this one a miss. The new job with its commute is tiring, and I’ve been to Loop Meadow Stadium many times. However Dad asked if I was going, and that’s Dad-speak for “Can you give me a lift?”

And there’s a lot to like about the place. From the ground next door, used by Didcot Casuals that is in fact the floodlights and rail from Town’s old ground at Station Road, to the well-designed stand with far better sightlines that at, say Oxford City’s Court Place Farm. There’s a spacious bar, and now there’s cover behind the goal to keep the groundgraders happy. That, sadly is for the time being is irrelevant with Town relegated to the Southern League- South and West Division.

More than anything else it’s the friendly welcome that appeals most, and this evening was no exception. Didcot tends to be thought of as the town with the power station, and the cooling towers do dominate, but its significant garrison town too. There’s a significant railway presence because Lord Wantage prevented the Great Western Railway from having a station in Abingdon, thus passing the economic benefits around 5 miles south. The Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed station has been long since superceded, but the nearby Didcot Railway Centre is well worth a visit.

It was everything I expected from a pre-season fixture between these sides. Good passing football from both sides with the visitors dominating possession. United could, and should have led, but found no-one to do the simple thing and pass the ball into the net. James Constable forced a smart save from Marco Belloli in the home goal, and later saw his improvised bicycle kick sail just over the bar. Didcot were working extremely hard but could not get to grips with Jake Forster-Caskey who, in midfield was behind almost everything good United did. One through ball to Constable will live long in the memory, although the chance was eventually smothered by Belloli.

Oxford made 8 changes at half time, with just Adam Chapman, Wayne Brown and triallist Femi Orunuga remaining. Orunuga, formerly of Everton didn’t last long, yet another piece of trickery with no end product saw him replaced by first-year professional Tyrone Marsh. Chapman in the first half showed what a good midfielder he is and in the second, how he really shouldn’t play at right back. His sloppy pass was intercepted by Anaclet Odhiambo but Wayne Brown saved well.

Last season, the form of forward Deane Smalley was a major disappointment. A one-goal return and an unsuccessful loan spell at Bradford City, can only be improved on, and two goals in two pre-season games is a fair start. The root of the goal was an excellent diagonal pass from Tyrone Marsh to Sean Rigg on the right side of the box. Rigg crossed well and Smalley timed his run perfectly to tap home.

And that should have been that, but Odhiambo’s cross was horribly spilled by Brown, and there was Danilson Vincente to tap into the empty net. Of course you shouldn’t read too much into friendlies, but have a look at the right side of the teamsheet and ignoring the triallists, its hard not to see the two OUFC line-ups as “Probables” for the first half and “Possibles” for the second.